This is Part Two of a four-part series on Faith Development aimed at discovering the elements of faith beneath the traditional principles of personal development. By way of example, I have taken Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and sought to connect the traditional principles with faith. To read Part One, click here. To read Part Three, click here.
Habit 1: Be Proactive
Stephen Covey’s first Habit is all about understanding that you’re not a victim to your circumstances. Along those same lines is Andy Andrew’s First Decision from his book The Traveler’s Gift, “The Buck Stops Here.” This is the idea that we have to take personal responsibility for every decision we make, even the ones we don’t make.
What the great teachers would say is that we can spend our time on earth living in blame and unforgiveness, or we can choose the opposite path—the path of responsibility, forgiveness, and action. One of the greatest books of all-time, Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, forges this idea. Despite Frankl’s confinement to hell on earth, an imprisonment at Auschwitz during World War II, he concluded that when we realize our power to make choices, regardless of our circumstances, we begin to free ourselves from those circumstances.
But Jesus had a lot to say about this as well: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). “And forgive our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12). For Christians, responsibility and forgiveness are not merely our call, but our proactive path to living effectively. They are precisely how we share the “good news” with others. And Jesus didn’t just speak these as a command, He lived them as our model. Even as He was being crucified He cried, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24).
Another point Covey makes is that being proactive begins with what we say—that our tongue has more power than we realize. He talks about how proactive people use words like, “I will” and “I can” whereas reactive people use words like, “I won’t” or “I can’t.”
This is probably one of the most powerful principles that people don’t regularly relate to faith. But Jesus constantly taught His followers the importance of the tongue. More importantly, Jesus showed His command of this principle by His ability to heal the sick, wilt fig trees, and cast out demons at the utterance of a word. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). “By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37). “Everyone who asks receives” (Luke 11:10).
Being aware of the proactive nature of life and setting faith as the underlying foundation grants us the opportunity to begin to rise above and speak power into our circumstances.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
To Covey, this habit was all about envisioning and the imagination, or as Napoleon Hill said in Think and Grow Rich, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” If we want to take certain action, we have to have a certain direction. That is our end, our goal, our destination. Once we have our destination set, from there, all of our actions begin to propel us along. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from the philosopher Seneca: “No wind blows fair for the ship without port.” Or as it says in Proverbs, “Without a vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18).
This is the idea laid out in Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist: each of us has a Personal Legend waiting for us, and when we’re willing to go after that Personal Legend, the Universe will conspire to help us achieve it.
Beneath these phrases is the idea of individual purpose. That each one of us was uniquely and creatively made with our own set of gifts, talents, and desires. But where does that concept of individualism come from?
The Bible says we were “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Think of it this way: all of us have a thumb print, but every single thumb print is different. When we begin to know who we truly are, our God-given DNA, we begin to have a vision for what we were created for. The beautiful journey of faith is that we get to leave God’s fingerprints on the world through our own. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
When we remove the element of faith from this principle, when we fail to let God be the One who gives us our why, we can quickly find ourselves with the wrong pursuit. I think of King David, a man who was anointed by the prophet Samuel as the King over Israel, but had to wait for more than fifteen years under the terrible leadership of King Saul until his appointed time came. Or I think about Moses who hid in the desert of Midian for forty years before God called Him to become the deliverer of His people. Or I think about Saul, a Christian-killing, rule-abiding Pharisee who was radically transformed after meeting Jesus face-to-face on the road to Damascus and would later become the most prolific author in the history of the world.
These heroes of faith were real people with real stories and they all teach us that when we pursue our own end, it often leads to stress, exhaustion, and frustration. But when we live from our place of purpose—our God-given why—we watch Him complete that work before us.
Faith teaches us that life isn’t something that should be relegated to a one-size-fits-all approach, but rather an individually crafted and wonderfully created purpose that God has prepared for us—an end in mind that drives all of our beginnings.
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Covey emphasizes that Habit 3 is where Habit 1 and Habit 2 collide—it’s where responsibility meets purpose. We need to focus our energy and efforts on that which is important. This habit is about priorities, it’s about remembering our “end,” and it’s about constantly recalibrating our compass.
Covey created his Time Management Quadrants to help with this idea. By gathering our actions into urgent and important, it helps us drill into what’s now and what’s next. This type of process keeps us from spending time on things that aren’t moving us forward and causes our distraction-free efforts to become effective.
But what does the Bible have to say about it?
I immediately think of Paul’s encouragement to the Colossians to “Set your mind on things above” (Colossians 3:2). The idea is that there is a first and foremost to faith and that is the will of God—His will for our lives. Jesus says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33a). This, of course, is where the water between “personal development” and “faith development” may become muddy for some. But for the believer, first means first and this is the moment of conviction where we have to get honest with ourselves about what we are truly seeking. But the promise Jesus made is that by placing first things first, ultimately our faith in God and His purposes, the “end” that we desire will be given to us: “…And all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33b). Or consider the Psalms: “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). When He fills our quadrants, our compass is always properly calibrated.
So where do you stand?
Before I close, I want to make it abundantly clear that this is not intended to create guilt. Guilt is a weak tool that the enemy uses to keep us shackled and ineffective. These points are intended to create a zeal and excitement for God and the adventure of discovering our distinct purpose. During that process, we will have challenges that disrupt the order and cause secondary things to seem like first things. But our constant emphasis must be to focus our efforts on that which is ultimately important as echoed by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
Whatever is first is directly related to our end, our purpose, our why. That is what we are to think on and give our efforts to. For the Christian, with unwavering certainty, that must be Abba, Father, our God.
So where do you weigh in on Habits 1-3? Do you notice a gap between the convictions of your heart and the habits that you keep? How can you begin to welcome faith into every aspect of your life?
In Part Three, I will unpack Habits 4-6. Please subscribe to our mailing list to receive those updates, or make sure to connect with us on social media.
YouPrint is a faith development organization founded by authors Matt Ham and Kevin Adams. Resources include live speaking events, personal mentoring, and interactive books that help folks get unstuck, live with purpose, and discover their very own YouPrint.